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Does Place Still Matter?

When Richard Florida wrote in 2002 that,

“Place has become the central organizing unit of our time, taking on many of the functions that used to be played by firms and other organizations.”

He was making a case that what you could DO in a place would be people’s first consideration before moving there (and then finding a job). And I agreed… the economic development arm of my business is built on the foundation that adding amenities that residents want and desire (shopping, dining, parks & recreation, education opportunities, culture) leads to long term economic health and growth. If talented people want to live in a place, companies will go where the talent is.

I’ve been thinking… perhaps Florida’s definition of “place” is too narrow, though, to apply to today’s socially-connected world. Perhaps the new organizing unit is knowledge…. where it lives, how its found and accessed, and then how it can be acted upon. Maybe now it’s all about what you can do in a SPACE rather than in a PLACE.

Today’s spaces are not defined so much by walls or physical boundaries as they are self-sorted, self-elected affinities. I am part of several “spaces” online and also offline, nearly all of which I’ve chosen belonging.

Interestingly enough… marketing up until very recent times was based almost entirely on those spaces we CANNOT choose or have limited control over… my gender and age, for instance. As marketing shifts toward “engagement” and “conversation” it better also shift the basis to those affinities we choose. The spaces to which I’ve chosen to belong are a far more powerful way to connect.

What spaces, physical or not, are Florida’s Creative Class inhabiting now? How will companies find them? Does physical place still serve as our primary organizing unit and a defining characteristic?

(Quote from pg 6 of “The Rise of the Creative Class”)

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3 Responses to “Does Place Still Matter?”

  1. Gerald Buckley September 16, 2009 at 5:02 pm #

    Mandy – Ask any VC and they’ll tell you “place” means a great deal to them. Not so much on where THEY do their own business. But, where their investments are located.

    Just came back from the Valley this week. And, it seems that notion is thawing a bit. Still, to answer the original question… while we can do just about anything from anywhere these days. It appears there are still limiting factors at play which can dictate the “where”.

    Hope you and the fam are doing well. 🙂 GB

    • Mandy Vavrinak September 16, 2009 at 10:43 pm #

      Gerald… interesting perspective. So you’re saying that VCs will evaluate a potential investment based on WHERE the idea originates/will be birthed, not just the merit of the idea itself? Or, maybe clearer to say that they believe the chances for success are tied strongly to place?

  2. Matthew Fox September 17, 2009 at 10:14 am #

    Mandy – in addition to the VC conversation I have found that many of the start-ups that are the best and brightest will be offered VC money and required to move their operations to a different area. Sometimes this has to do with the VC wanting to keep close tabs, but other times they have a perceived notion on the “where” associated with a firms success and their investment.

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